Transcript: Niall Ferguson on his book Empire | Apr 27, 2003

Niall Ferguson stands behind a wide black lectern on a stage in a large auditorium.
He's in his late thirties, clean-shaven, with short side-parted brown hair. He's wearing a black suit, white shirt, and red tie.

He says GOOD EVENING, LADIES AND
GENTLEMEN, AND I UNDERSTAND
WHAT A GREAT SACRIFICE
MANY OF YOU HAVE MADE...

[laughter]

Niall continues IN COMING TO A LECTURE
SO VERY BADLY TIMED AS TO
COINCIDE WITH AN
ICE HOCKEY MATCH...

[laughter]

Niall continues BETWEEN TORONTO AND,
I WAS INTERESTED TO SEE,
PHILADELPHIA.
"AH," I SAID TO MYSELF AS I
LEFT THE HOTEL -- AND THIS IS
THE REASON I'M SLIGHTLY LATE.
"I SEE THE LOYALISTS ARE
PLAYING THE REBELS."

[laughter]

Niall continues AND THE SCORE AS I LEFT THE
HOTEL, YOU WILL BE GLAD TO
HEAR, WAS ONE-ALL, AND I CAN
ONLY EXPRESS MY HEARTFELT HOPE
THAT THE LOYALISTS WILL FINISH
THE JOB OFF IN FINE STYLE.

[laughter and applause]

Niall continues IT COULD ALL HAVE BEEN SO
DIFFERENT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Niall Ferguson. University of Oxford. Author, 'Empire: The rise and demise of the British world order.' Recorded April 13, 2003."

Niall continues EVERY TIME I COME TO TORONTO,
AND I'VE BEEN COMING HERE
SINCE I WAS A BOY BECAUSE, LIKE
ALL GOOD SCOTSMEN, I HAVE
RELATIVES IN CANADA AND, LIKE
ALL GOOD SCOTSMEN, I'M HOPING
THEY'RE HERE TONIGHT BECAUSE
OTHERWISE I'LL HAVE TO PAY
FOR MY OWN DINNER.

[laughter]

Niall continues WHENEVER I COME TO CANADA,
I ASK MYSELF WHAT THE WORLD
WOULD BE LIKE IF CANADA WERE
GUADELOUPE BECAUSE THERE WAS A
TIME WHEN GREAT BRITAIN HAD TO
MAKE A CHOICE, AND THE CHOICE
WAS BETWEEN CANADA
AND GUADELOUPE.
THIS, AS I'M SURE YOU ALL KNOW
AS KEEN STUDENTS OF CANADIAN
HISTORY, WAS IN THE AFTERMATH
OF THE SEVEN YEARS WAR.
WE HAD DEFEATED THE FRENCH,
THOUGH I HASTEN TO ADD THAT
THERE'S NO ILL FEELING...

[laughter]

Niall continues ON THAT SUBJECT ANYMORE,
AS RECENT POLITICAL EVENTS
SUGGEST, AND WE HAD DESPOILED
THEM OF A VERY SUBSTANTIAL
PART OF THEIR THEN
GLOBAL EMPIRE.
BUT IN THE SPIRIT OF RESTRAINT
NOT ALWAYS IN EVIDENCE IN
BRITISH IMPERIAL HISTORY, IT
WAS FELT THAT NOT ALL THE
THINGS THAT WE HAD WON FROM
THE FRENCH DURING THE WAR
SHOULD BE RETAINED.
AND IT BOILED DOWN TO A
STRAIGHTFORWARD CHOICE...
SHOULD WE GIVE THEM BACK
CANADA OR THE ISLAND
OF GUADELOUPE?
AND IT WAS ARGUED VERY
FORCEFULLY BY WILLIAM BURKE IN
1759 THAT WE SHOULD, IN
FACT, GIVE BACK CANADA.
AND I'D LIKE TO QUOTE HIS
ARGUMENTS FOR DOING SO
BECAUSE I THINK THEY MAY STRIKE
SOME OF YOU AS RATHER PRESCIENT.
"IF, SIR," HE WROTE, "THE
PEOPLE OF OUR COLONIES" -- AND
HE MEANT THE NORTH AMERICAN
COLONIES IN GENERAL -- "FIND NO
CHECK FROM CANADA," IN OTHER
WORDS, FROM A FRENCH CANADA,
"THEY WILL EXTEND THEMSELVES
ALMOST WITHOUT BOUNDS INTO THE
INLAND PARTS BY EAGERLY GRASPING
THAT EXTENSIVE TERRITORY.
WE MAY RUN THE RISK, AND
THAT'S PERHAPS IN NO VERY
DISTANT PERIOD, OF LOSING
WHAT WE NOW POSSESS.
A NEIGHBOUR THAT KEEPS US IN
SOME AWE IS NOT ALWAYS THE
WORST OF NEIGHBOURS."
IN OTHER WORDS, BURKE ARGUED
THAT IF CANADA WERE RETAINED
BY THE BRITISH EMPIRE, THE
SECURITY THREAT TO THE 13
COLONIES TO THE SOUTH
OF CANADA WOULD VANISH.
THE THREAT OF FRANCE WOULD
CEASE TO BE A FACTOR IN THE
POLITICS OF THE 13 AMERICAN
COLONIES, AT WHICH POINT,
BURKE ARGUED, THERE WOULD BE
A SERIOUS DANGER THAT THEIR
EXPANSION THROUGHOUT THE
AMERICAN CONTINENT WOULD,
IN THEIR HEARTS, AWAKEN AN
APPETITE FOR INDEPENDENCE THAT
WOULD NO LONGER BE CHECKED
BY THE THREAT OF FRANCE.
SO, BURKE ARGUED,
GIVE BACK CANADA.
KEEP GUADELOUPE.
IT WAS ALMOST AS PROFITABLE IN
THOSE DAYS BECAUSE ALTHOUGH
THE FUR TRADE WAS IMPORTANT IN
CANADA, THE SUGAR PRODUCTION
OF GUADELOUPE WAS REALLY,
IN MANY WAYS, A MORE
LUCRATIVE PROPOSITION.
WELL, HE LOST THE ARGUMENT,
WHICH WASN'T ENTIRELY WITHOUT
SELF INTEREST SINCE HE HAD
ONE OF THE JOBS OF RUNNING
GUADELOUPE, AND I THINK WE
CAN'T, THEREFORE, REGARD
BURKE'S ARGUMENTS AS
WHOLLY DISINTERESTED.
AND THE RESULT OF THAT IS,
JUST AS HE PREDICTED, THAT THE
13 AMERICAN COLONIES DID, IN
A VERY SHORT SPACE OF TIME,
INSIST ON AT LEAST SOME
MEASURE OF AUTONOMY FROM THE
RULE OF WESTMINSTER.
AND WHEN THAT WAS DENIED THEM,
ON OUTRIGHT INDEPENDENCE.
AND IN THE ABSENCE OF A SECURITY
THREAT FROM THE NORTH,
THEY SAW NO RISK
IN DOING SO.
INDEED, THEY FELT EMBOLDENED
TO INVADE BRITISH CANADA.
A THRUST OF TWO ATTEMPTS,
MAYBE MORE, WERE PLANNED BY
WHAT WAS TO BECOME THE REBEL
REPUBLIC OF THE UNITED STATES
TO EXPAND NOT JUST
WESTWARDS BUT NORTHWARDS.
SO TONIGHT'S ICE HOCKEY MATCH
MIGHT NEVER HAVE BEEN...

[laughter]

Niall continues AND ITS RESULT MIGHT BE OF
FAR LESS POLITICAL IMPORTANCE
TO YOU, AND INDEED, TO TAKE
THE COUNTERFACTUAL SPECULATION
EVEN FURTHER, YOU MIGHT ALL
HAVE BEEN FAR MORE INTERESTED
IN THE RECENT CRICKET WORLD
CUP, A SPORTING EVENT OF, OF
COURSE, TO BRITISH EYES, FAR
GREATER WORLD HISTORICAL
IMPORTANCE THAN ALMOST ANY
OTHER SPORTING EVENT BUT ONE
IN WHICH, SADLY, THE UNITED
STATES SEEMS UNLIKELY EVER
TO TAKE PART.

[chuckling]

Niall continues WHY, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
SHOULD WE THINK ABOUT THE
BRITISH EMPIRE TODAY?
WHY SHOULD WE BOTHER WITH IT?
MANY OF YOU MAY FEEL THAT IT'S
HIGH TIME CANADA PUT BEHIND IT
ITS RELATIONSHIP WITH BRITAIN,
AS PERSONIFIED BY QUEEN
ELIZABETH II, PUT
BEHIND IT ITS DAYS AS A
DOMINION WITHIN THE BRITISH
EMPIRE, PUT BEHIND IT THE
MEMORY THAT IT WAS ONCE A
COMPONENT PART OF A GLOBAL
EMPIRE THAT ACCOUNTED FOR
ROUGHLY A QUARTER OF THE
WORLD'S LAND SURFACE, AND MUCH
OF THAT, OF COURSE, ACCOUNTED
FOR BY CANADA.
IS THERE ANY REASON TO GO OVER
THE STORY ONCE MORE OF HOW A
SMALL, RAIN-SWEPT GROUP OF
ISLANDS OFF THE NORTHWEST
COAST OF EUROPE CAME TO EXERT
SUCH COLOSSAL GLOBAL, ECONOMIC
AND MILITARY DOMINANCE?
WELL, I THINK THERE IS ONE
VERY OBVIOUS REASON WHY WE
NEED TO THINK ABOUT THIS
SUBJECT AND THINK ABOUT IT
HARD TODAY, AND THAT REASON
IS THAT THE UNITED STATES,
CANADA'S NEIGHBOUR AND NOT
ALWAYS THE MOST COMFORTABLE OF
NEIGHBOURS, ITSELF A PRODUCT
OF A REVOLT AGAINST THE
BRITISH EMPIRE, TODAY SEEMS IN
THE PROCESS OF MUTATING INTO
A REINCARNATION OF
THE BRITISH EMPIRE.
AS I'VE TRIED TO ARGUE, AND
I'VE EXHAUSTED MYSELF IN THE
PROCESS IN THE UNITED STATES
IN THE LAST FEW WEEKS,
THE UNITED STATES IS
ALREADY AN EMPIRE.
THE ONLY THING THAT'S MISSING
IS RECOGNITION OF THAT FACT
BY THE MAJORITY OF AMERICANS.
IT IS AN EMPIRE IN DENIAL, AN
EMPIRE THAT DARE NOT SPEAK ITS
NAME, BUT WHAT IT'S DOING
BEARS UNCANNY RESEMBLANCES TO
THE WAY THE BRITISH EMPIRE
EXPANDED FROM ECONOMIC TO
MILITARY TO POLITICAL
POWER OVER A CENTURY AGO.
LET ME GIVE YOU JUST ONE
EXAMPLE OF HOW VERY LIKE AN
EMPIRE YOUR
NEIGHBOUR HAS BECOME.
YOU KNOW, THIS ISN'T THE FIRST
TIME THAT BAGHDAD HAS FALLEN
TO ENGLISH-SPEAKING TROOPS.
IT HAPPENED IN 1917, AND IT
HAPPENED WITH ALMOST AS
DRAMATIC SWIFTNESS AS THE
INVASION OF IRAQ THAT WE HAVE
JUST WITNESSED.
BUT IN 1917, IT WAS A
BRITISH FORCE THAT SWEPT UP
FROM KUT TO BAGHDAD IN
A MATTER OF WEEKS AND
ESTABLISHED A NEW
REGIME IN THAT CITY.
IT'S NOT JUST THE SWIFTNESS OF
THE VICTORY THAT'S SIMILAR.
THE THINGS THE BRITISH SAID
WHEN THEY ARRIVED IN BAGHDAD
BEAR AN UNCANNY RESEMBLANCE TO
THINGS THAT THE AMERICANS HAVE
SAID SINCE THEY ARRIVED THERE.
FOR EXAMPLE, THE BRITISH
GENERAL F.S. MAUDE, WHO LED
THE SUCCESSFUL INVASION
FORCE TO BAGHDAD, DECLARED
ON HIS ARRIVAL THERE
THAT HE WAS NOT IN IRAQ, IN
MESOPOTAMIA AS IT WAS THEN
KNOWN, FOR ANY OTHER REASON
BUT TO FREE THE PEOPLE OF THE
COUNTRY, THAT THEIR LAWS AND
CUSTOMS WOULD BE RESPECTED BUT
THEY WOULD NOW BENEFIT FROM
BEING RELEASED FROM DESPOTIC
RULE AND INTRODUCED TO THE
BENEFITS OF ECONOMIC
AND POLITICAL FREEDOM.
IF YOU READ THE TEXT OF
MAUDE'S FIRST PROCLAMATION IN
MARCH OF 1917, IT IS, IN
PLACES, ALMOST VERBATIM,
ALMOST IDENTICAL TO WHAT
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH SAID
WHEN HE WENT ON IRAQI
TELEVISION ONLY THE OTHER DAY
TO EXPLAIN THAT HE HAD
JUST FOUGHT AND WON,
NOT A WAR OF CONQUEST
BUT A WAR OF LIBERATION.
AS IN 1917, IT IS ALMOST
CERTAIN THAT THE UNITED STATES
WILL NOW INSTALL IN BAGHDAD A
GOVERNMENT MORE TO ITS LIKING
THAN THE LAST ONE.
IT WILL HURRY TO CREATE A
LEGITIMATE NON-AMERICAN
ARAB REGIME IN IRAQ.
THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT
THE BRITISH DID, TOO.
THE BRITISH HASTENED TO CREATE
A POLITICAL SYSTEM IN THEIR
OWN IMAGE BUT ONE WITH AT
LEAST AN APPEARANCE OF
POPULAR LEGITIMACY.
THEY HAD FOUND IN ARABIA IN
THE COURSE OF THE FIRST WORLD
WAR A WILLING FAMILY OF
POTENTATES, THE HASHEMITES,
ALL EAGER TO CLAIM A SHARE
OF THE SPOILS OF A BRITISH
VICTORY OVER THE
OTTOMAN EMPIRE.
AND KING FAISAL WAS DULY
CROWNED KING OF IRAQ IN 1921.
IT'S ACTUALLY A RATHER
WONDERFUL EVENT DESCRIBED
BY GERTRUDE BELL, THAT
MOST FORMIDABLE OF FEMALE
EMPIRE BUILDERS.
I'LL TELL YOU SOME MORE ABOUT
HER IN A MINUTE BECAUSE I'M
RATHER FASCINATED BY HER, BUT
SHE DESCRIBES THE EVENT IN
A BEAUTIFUL LETTER
TO HER FATHER.
SHE DESCRIBES HOW NERVOUS
FAISAL WAS, HOW SHE ENCOURAGED
HIM WITH A LITTLE SALUTE
AS HE APPROACHED THE DAIS
TO BE CROWNED.
SHE DESCRIBES IN THE LETTER
HOW HER SUPERIOR, THE BRITISH
COMMISSIONER THEN IN CHARGE
OF BAGHDAD, READ OUT A
PROCLAMATION IN WHICH IT WAS
ANNOUNCED THAT 96 PERCENT OF
THE POPULATION OF IRAQ
HAD VOTED TO HAVE FAISAL
AS THEIR KING.
I'M NOT SURE THERE WERE MANY
OTHER CANDIDATES, MIND YOU.
AND THE WONDERFUL PART OF THIS
LETTER WHICH MADE ME LAUGH OUT
LOUD WHEN I READ IT WAS, "AND
THEN, AND THEN WE PLAYED THE
NATIONAL ANTHEM,
GOD SAVE THE KING...

[laughter]

Niall continues BECAUSE THEY DON'T HAVE
ONE OF THEIR OWN YET."

[laughter]

Niall continues WELL, EXPECT TO SEE SOMETHING
SOMEWHAT SIMILAR IN THE MONTHS
AHEAD AS THE AMERICANS HASTEN
TO CREATE AN APPARENTLY
LEGITIMATE GOVERNMENT IN IRAQ
WHICH WILL, AT LEAST IN SOME
EYES, CONCEAL THE REALITY OF
AN AMERICAN MILITARY PRESENCE.
LET ME PURSUE THE
ANALOGY FURTHER.
THIS KIND OF OPERATION DOESN'T
COME WITHOUT A PRICE TAG.
SO FAR, THE AMERICANS HAVE
SPENT AROUND 79 BILLION dollars
DEPOSING SADDAM HUSSEIN
AND FIGHTING A WAR.
AND IT'S NOT OVER YET.
THE BRITISH DISCOVERED THAT
THE MILITARY CONQUEST WAS,
IN FACT, THE EASY BIT.
IN 1920, JUST OVER THREE
YEARS AFTER THEY HAD OCCUPIED
BAGHDAD, THERE WAS A HUGE
REVOLT AGAINST BRITISH RULE
AND IT TOOK COLOSSAL MILITARY
RESOURCES, PARTICULARLY THE
USE OF BRITISH AIR POWER FOR
THE FIRST TIME IN THE HISTORY
OF THE EMPIRE AS A KEY
COMPONENT OF COLONIAL RULE,
TO BRING THIS UNDER CONTROL.
TOTAL BILL WAS SOMETHING LIKE
20 MILLION pounds, WHICH WAS IN
THOSE DAYS REALLY NOT VERY
FAR OFF 79 BILLION dollars TODAY.
SO IT WASN'T WITHOUT ITS
COSTS, THIS KIND OF OPERATION,
BUT THERE WERE BENEFITS, TOO,
AND THE BENEFITS FLOWED IN
THE FORM OF A BLACK
VISCOUS SUBSTANCE.
WHEN THE ANGLO PERSIAN OIL
COMPANY STRUCK OIL IN IRAQ,
AS THE BRITISH HAD HOPED
THEY WOULD, IN 1927.
THERE AGAIN, I THINK, LADIES
AND GENTLEMEN, THERE ARE
INTRIGUING PARALLELS BETWEEN
OUR DAYS AND THE PREVIOUS ERA
OF ANGLOPHONE IMPERIALISM.
SO WHAT, YOU'RE WONDERING,
ARE THE DIFFERENCES?
WHAT DIFFERENCES ARE THERE, IN
FACT, BETWEEN THIS NEW EMPIRE
IN ALL BUT NAME AND THE ONE
IN WHOSE FOOTSTEPS IT IS SO
PRECISELY FOLLOWING?
WELL, WHAT I WANT TO JUST TRY
TO SUGGEST THIS EVENING, AND I
WILL NOT SPEAK AT GREAT LENGTH
BECAUSE I AM ENTHUSIASTICALLY
LOOKING FORWARD TO A
DISCUSSION WITH YOU, WHAT I'D
LIKE TO SUGGEST THIS EVENING
IS THAT THERE ARE TWO CRUCIAL
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE WAY IN
WHICH THE BRITISH APPROACHED
THE GENERAL QUESTION OF HOW TO
RUN FORMER ROGUE REGIMES, IF
YOU WANT TO CALL IT THAT,
COUNTRIES LIKE IRAQ, AND THE
WAY THAT THE AMERICANS
APPEAR INTENT ON DOING IT
IN OUR OWN TIME.
THE FIRST IS
ONE OF TIMEFRAME.
IT'S BEEN VERY INTERESTING
THAT, IN THE LAST FEW WEEKS,
WE'VE HEARD MIXED SIGNALS FROM
AMERICAN OFFICIALS, INCLUDING
FORMER GENERAL GARNER, WHO'S
SUPPOSED TO BE IN CHARGE OF
THE WONDERFULLY NAMED OFFICE
OF RECONSTRUCTION AND
HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE, A
EUPHEMISM WHICH WOULD HAVE
DEEPLY IMPRESSED THE BRITISH.

[laughter]

Niall continues THEIR EUPHEMISM WAS
MANDATE.
THEY WERE RUNNING A
MANDATE
OF
THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS IN IRAQ,
BUT RECONSTRUCTION AND
HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE IS
REALLY A TREMENDOUS
WORD FOR IMPERIALISM.

[laughter]

Niall continues NOW, THE NOTION IS THAT,
ACCORDING TO EX-GENERAL GARNER
WHO WILL BE IN CHARGE OF THIS
THING, THAT IT WILL BE IN
OPERATION FOR A RELATIVELY
SHORT PERIOD OF TIME.
TIMEFRAMES RANGING BETWEEN
THREE MONTHS AND 24 MONTHS
HAVE BEEN PUBLICLY DISCUSSED.
I HAVE YET TO HEAR ANY MEMBER
OF THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION
IMAGINE AN AMERICAN OCCUPATION
OF IRAQ LASTING SIGNIFICANTLY
LONGER THAN TWO YEARS.
BY BRITISH STANDARDS, BY
THE STANDARDS OF THE LAST
ANGLOPHONE EMPIRE, THIS IS
AN ABSURDLY SHORT TIMEFRAME.
THE BRITISH ARRIVED,
AS I'VE SAID, IN 1917.
THEY MORE OR LESS WERE IN
CHARGE OF THE PLACE BY THE END
OF 1918 AND REMAINED, FORMALLY
OR INFORMALLY, THE RULERS
OF IRAQ UNTIL 1958.
IN OTHER WORDS, FOR A PERIOD
OF 40 YEARS, AND THAT, OF
COURSE, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
WAS A RELATIVELY SHORT PERIOD
OF TIME.
IN THE COURSE OF THAT TIME,
THEY FORMALLY HANDED OVER
SOVEREIGNTY TO KING
FAISAL AND HIS HEIRS.
THAT HAPPENED ACTUALLY
AS EARLY AS 1932.
THERE WAS A NASTY WOBBLE
DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR
WHEN IT APPEARED THAT A
PRO-NAZI IRAQI LEADER MIGHT
SEIZE POWER, BUT
HE WAS SEEN OFF.
BUT IN THE END, THE BRITISH
WERE DE FACTO IN CONTROL
IN BAGHDAD, BOTH MILITARILY AND
AS ADVISORS TO THE CIVILIAN
REGIME, UNTIL THE REVOLUTION
OF 1958 WHICH OVERTHREW
THE HASHEMITES AND OUSTED
THEIR PRO-BRITISH MINISTERS.
LET ME ASK YOU A QUESTION.
DID I MISS SOMETHING OR ARE
THERE AMERICANS CURRENTLY
INVOLVED IN DECISION MAKING OR
EVEN IN PUBLIC DEBATE IN THE
UNITED STATES WHO PLAN TO BE
IN BAGHDAD IN THE YEAR 2043?
[chuckling]
MY SENSE IS THAT THE TIMEFRAME
IS CLOSER TO 40 DAYS THAN
40 YEARS IN THE MINDS OF THE
GREAT MAJORITY OF AMERICAN
VOTERS, AND THAT, LADIES AND
GENTLEMEN, IS THE FIRST BIG
DIFFERENCE THAT I DETECT
BETWEEN EMPIRE TODAY
AND EMPIRE THEN.
THE SECOND THING I NOTICE,
WHICH IS STRIKING, IS THAT THE
KIND OF PEOPLE CURRENTLY IN
LINE TO RUN POST-WAR IRAQ ARE
FORMER SOLDIERS,
ALMOST ENTIRELY.
IT'S EXTREMELY HARD TO
FIND EQUIVALENT FIGURES TO
GERTRUDE BELL ANYWHERE
IN THE ELITE ECHELONS
OF AMERICAN SOCIETY.
ONE OF THE CHARACTERISTIC
FEATURES OF THE BRITISH
EMPIRE, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT
MADE IT, BY THE STANDARDS OF
MOST EMPIRES IN HISTORY, A
REMARKABLY LIBERAL EMPIRE,
CERTAINLY IN THE 19th AND 20th
CENTURIES, WAS THAT GENERALS
WERE VERY SELDOM IN CHARGE.
THE MILITARY WAS ALMOST ALWAYS
SUBORDINATE TO THE CIVILIAN
AUTHORITY EXCEPT IN TIMES OF
WAR, AND EVEN THEN, ITS POWER
WAS SEVERELY CIRCUMSCRIBED.
POWER IN THE BRITISH
EMPIRE WAS MUCH MORE LIKELY
TO BE WIELDED...
I WONDER IF THAT BOTTLE OF
WATER MIGHT COME ANYWHERE
NEAR ME IF I
WILL IT TO DO SO?

[laughter]

Niall continues ISN'T THAT WONDERFUL?
THANK YOU SO MUCH.
I KIND OF WAS LOOKING AROUND,
AND YOU SAW THAT I WAS LOOKING
FOR THAT BOTTLE.
THAT'S WONDERFUL.
IT'S...
IF ONLY WATER COULD BE BROUGHT
TO IRAQIS AS QUICKLY AS THAT.

[laughter]

Niall continues THE PEOPLE WHO RAN THE
BRITISH EMPIRE BY THE LATER
19th CENTURY WERE NOT
FORMER MARINES.
THEY WERE, BY AND LARGE,
THE ELITE PRODUCTS OF THE
COUNTRY'S ANCIENT
UNIVERSITIES; COLOSSALLY HIGH
PROPORTION OF THE COLONIAL
ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICE WERE
OXFORD OR CAMBRIDGE GRADUATES.
GERTRUDE BELL, WHO BECAME THE
POLITICAL SECRETARY IN BAGHDAD
AND A FIGURE OF TREMENDOUS
POWER AND INFLUENCE, WAS THE
FIRST WOMAN TO GRADUATE FROM
OXFORD UNIVERSITY WITH A
FIRST-CLASS
DEGREE IN HISTORY.
BY THE TIME THE BRITISH GAINED
CONTROL OF BAGHDAD, SHE WAS
SOMEONE SO DEEPLY AND WELL
VERSED IN MIDDLE EASTERN
LANGUAGES AND CIVILIZATION
THAT SHE WAS, IN FACT, THE
NATURAL PERSON TO CREATE THAT
GREAT NATIONAL MUSEUM, WHICH
HAS, IN THE LAST WEEK, BEEN SO
DISASTROUSLY DEVASTATED BY A
COMBINATION OF ANARCHY AND
MILITARY INCOMPETENCE.
THE QUESTION THAT I OFTEN ASK
MY STUDENTS IN NEW YORK AND
HAVE ASKED AUDIENCES IN
RECENT WEEKS IN CAMBRIDGE,
MASSACHUSETTS AND ELSEWHERE IS,
WHERE ARE THE GERTRUDE BELLS
IN THE UNITED
STATES TODAY?
HOW MANY GRADUATES OF HARVARD
IN THIS COMING YEAR WILL THINK
SERIOUSLY OR EVEN FOR A MOMENT
THAT THEIR FUTURE MAY LIE IN
GOVERNING A COUNTRY LIKE IRAQ,
IN HELPING A COUNTRY LIKE IRAQ
ACQUIRE A STABLE GOVERNMENT?
IT SEEMS TO ME PERFECTLY CLEAR
THAT THE EDUCATIONAL ELITES IN
THE UNITED STATES HAVE ALMOST
NO INTEREST IN LIVING ABROAD,
IN WORKING ABROAD, IN
DEDICATING THEMSELVES AS
GERTRUDE BELL DEDICATED
HERSELF TO DEVELOPING THE
INSTITUTIONS OF CIVIL
SOCIETY AND THE FREE MARKET
IN FOREIGN PARTS.
THEY WOULD FAR RATHER ASPIRE
TO LAW PARTNERSHIPS ON
WALL STREET THAN
TO GOVERN BAGHDAD.
AND THAT SEEMS TO ME TO
BE A PROFOUND AND TROUBLING
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THIS
NEW EMPIRE AND THE ONE
IT ASPIRES TO SUCCEED.
AN EMPIRE RUN EXCLUSIVELY BY
FORMER GENERALS, LADIES AND
GENTLEMEN, IS AN EMPIRE WHICH
WILL ALLOW MUSEUMS TO BE
RANSACKED, ARCHIVES TO BE
BURNT, LIBRARIES TO BE PILLAGED.
I MEAN NO DISRESPECT TO
THE U.S. MARINE CORPS.
THEY ARE EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD AT
WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO DO,
BUT WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED
TO DO IS TO WAGE WAR, NOT TO
CREATE A CIVIL GOVERNMENT FROM
THE ASHES OF THE PREVIOUS
REGIME THAT THEY THEMSELVES
HAVE OVERTHROWN.
IF ONE'S TRYING TO DRAW,
AS I DO IN MY BOOK
EMPIRE,
A BALANCE SHEET TRYING TO ASSESS
THE COSTS AND THE BENEFITS
OF BRITISH EMPIRE, AT LEAST
TWO THINGS, THEREFORE,
STAND OUT ABOUT IT.
ONE, THAT IT HAD A
LONG TIME HORIZON.
TO BE IN CHARGE OF IRAQ FOR 40
YEARS WAS, BY THE STANDARDS OF
OTHER BRITISH COLONIES, A
SHORT, NOT A LONG TIME.
IF YOU ACTUALLY ADD UP THE
NUMBER OF YEARS ON AVERAGE
THAT THE BRITISH RAN THEIR
COLONIES, YOU COME UP WITH
A FIGURE OF BETWEEN
100 AND 150 YEARS.
FORTY YEARS WAS, IN BRITISH
TERMS, MUCH TOO SHORT A TIME
SUCCESSFULLY TO INSTILL THE
INSTITUTIONS THAT THE BRITISH
REGARDED AS CRUCIAL FOR ECONOMIC
AND POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT.
BUT THE SECOND THING THAT'S
STRIKING AS ONE TRIES TO DRAW
UP THIS BALANCE SHEET IS THE
REMARKABLY HIGH QUALITY OF THE
PEOPLE WHO, BY THE TURN OF THE
CENTURY, BY 1900, SAW IT AS
THEIR VOCATION TO GOVERN THAT
HUGE TERRITORY OF THE WORLD
THAT HAD COME
UNDER BRITISH RULE.
IF YOU LIKE, THE STARS, THE
HIGH FLYERS OF OXFORD AND
CAMBRIDGE A HUNDRED YEARS AGO,
ASPIRED TO FEW THINGS MORE
EAGERLY THAN THE CHANCE TO RUN
THE PUNJAB AND TO SPEND THEIR
LIVES AS MEMBERS OF THE INDIAN
CIVIL SERVICE, FAR FROM THE
SHADED GROVES OF ACADEMIA.
WHAT I'VE TRIED TO DO IN THE
BOOK IS NOT TO WHITEWASH THE
BRITISH EMPIRE, NOT TO
WRITE AN APOLOGIA FOR IT.
ON THE CONTRARY, IT'S A
WARTS-AND-ALL PORTRAIT OF
WHAT THE EMPIRE WAS FROM ITS
RED-OF-TOOTH-AND-CLAW ORIGINS
TO ITS LAST STAND IN THE
SECOND WORLD WAR AND THE
SUBSEQUENT PRECIPITOUS DECLINE.
WHAT I'VE TRIED TO DO IS TO
SHOW THAT, IN THE 18th CENTURY,
IT WAS A TRULY TERRIFYING
ENGINE OF OPPRESSION
AND EXPROPRIATION, A
SYSTEM FOR GENERATING
PROFITS FOR A RELATIVELY TINY
ELITE OF SHAREHOLDERS AND
COMPANIES LIKE THE EAST INDIA
COMPANY AT THE EXPENSE OF
INDIGENOUS POPULATIONS BUT
ALSO THE EXPENSE OF MANY
POORER BRITISH SUBJECTS WHO
EITHER PAID THE TAXES THAT
FINANCED THEIR OPERATIONS
OR ACTUALLY FOUGHT AT SEA
OR ON LAND ON THEIR BEHALF.
WE SHOULD NEVER, EVER OVERLOOK
THE EXTRAORDINARILY IMPORTANT
ROLE THE BRITISH EMPIRE
PLAYED IN THE SLAVE TRADE
AND IN THE DEVELOPMENT
OF SLAVERY.
ROUGHLY THREE MILLION AFRICANS
WERE SHIPPED ACROSS THE
ATLANTIC IN THE 18th
CENTURY IN BRITISH SHIPS.
THE BRITISH CAME TO DOMINATE
THE TRADE WHICH HAD PREVIOUSLY
BEEN PIONEERED BY
THE PORTUGUESE.
HOWEVER, ONE NEEDS TO
RECOGNIZE THAT THE BRITISH
EMPIRE HAD A DYNAMIC TOWARDS
LIBERALIZATION, THAT BY THE
EARLY 19th CENTURY, IT WAS
CHANGING IN ITS CHARACTER VERY
PROFOUNDLY, AND NOWHERE WAS
THAT MORE APPARENT THAN IN THE
EXTRAORDINARY VOLTE-FACE THAT
BRITAIN DID ON THE SUBJECT
OF SLAVERY ITSELF.
WITHIN A MATTER OF DECADES,
THE BRITISH WENT FROM BEING
THE WORLD'S FOREMOST SLAVE
TRADERS TO WAGING A WAR TO
ABOLISH THE SLAVE TRADE AND
THEN ENACTING LEGISLATION THAT
ABOLISHED THE INSTITUTION
OF SLAVERY EVERYWHERE
WHERE BRITAIN RULED.
REMEMBER, IF THE UNITED STATES
HAD, BY SOME GOOD FORTUNE,
REMAINED A PART OF THE BRITISH
EMPIRE, THEN IT WOULD HAVE GONE
MUCH BETTER FOR AFRICAN
AMERICANS SOUTH OF THE
BORDER THAT WE FIND
OURSELVES NORTH OF.
WHAT I WANTED TO DO IN
EMPIRE
WAS TO TRY TO EXPLAIN
HOW THE EMPIRE WORKED, AND
I WANT TO SKETCH FOR YOU
MY THEORY THIS EVENING.
I WANT TO SHOW YOU THAT THE
BRITISH EMPIRE WAS NOT BASED
ON MILITARY FORCE ALONE, THAT
MILITARY FORCE WAS, IN MANY
WAYS, BY THE 19th CENTURY, ITS
LAST RESORT, ITS LAST ARGUMENT,
THE LEAST IMPORTANT COMPONENT
OF THE IMPERIAL EDIFICE.
IMAGINE, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
A KIND OF FOUR-TIERED MODEL.
IMAGINE AT THE TOP TIER
ECONOMICS, THE ROLE OF PRIVATE
ENTERPRISE, OF FIRMS,
OF FREE MARKETS.
THAT WAS AT THE VERY HEART OF
THE WAY THE EMPIRE FUNCTIONED.
AND I'LL SAY A LITTLE BIT
MORE ABOUT THAT IN A MOMENT.
THEN GO DOWN A TIER.
ON THE NEXT TIER DOWN,
YOU HAVE SOMETHING QUITE
DIFFERENT, NOT FIRMS, NOT
BUSINESSES BUT SETTLERS,
PEOPLE LIKE THE ANCESTORS OF
NEARLY EVERYONE IN THIS ROOM
WHO TOOK THE DECISION TO LEAVE
THE BRITISH ISLES WITH A
ONE-WAY TICKET AND TAKE A
CHANCE ON MAKING A NEW LIFE
IN ANOTHER CONTINENT.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, AROUND
22 TO 25 MILLION PEOPLE,
WE ESTIMATE, LEFT THE BRITISH
ISLES BETWEEN THE EARLY 1600s
AND THE LATER 1960s WHEN
THE GREAT EXODUS ENDED.
THAT'S A COLOSSALLY
LARGE FIGURE.
IT WAS THAT HUGE EXPLOSION
OF EMIGRATION WHICH MADE THE
BRITISH EMPIRE SO VERY MUCH
MORE POWERFUL THAN, FOR
EXAMPLE, ITS RIVAL
THE FRENCH EMPIRE.
THERE WAS NO OTHER EMPIRE OF
ALL THE EUROPEAN EMPIRES THAT
HAD THIS ABILITY TO PROPEL
PEOPLE FROM ITS CELTIC PERIPHERY
PARTICULARLY, TO HOT OR COLD,
INHOSPITABLE CLIMATES.

[laughter]

Niall continues WHY DO I SAY COLD?

[laughter]

Niall continues I WOKE UP THIS MORNING IN
NEW YORK; IT WAS SUNNY.
I PUT ON A LINEN SUIT.
I FEEL I'M WORKING FOR
THE HUDSON BAY COMPANY,
IT'S SO COLD.
IF YOU READ MY
BOOK, YOU'LL HEAR...
YOU'LL READ IN THE EARLY PART
OF THE INTRODUCTION ABOUT MY
GREAT AUNT AGGIE WHO LEFT
SCOTLAND IN 1911 TO MAKE A NEW
LIFE IN THE CANADIAN PRAIRIES.
IT WAS A TREMENDOUSLY
RISKY UNDERTAKING.
SHE AND HER HUSBAND TOOK ALL
THEIR SAVINGS AND INVESTED
THEM IN A ONE-WAY TICKET, WITH
THE PROSPECT BEFORE THEM OF
VIRGIN LAND AT BARGAIN
BASEMENT PRICES.
IT'S A FASCINATING STORY
BECAUSE ACCORDING TO MY
RELATIVES IN ALBERTA WHO ARE
AGGIE'S DESCENDANTS, THEY VERY
NEARLY SAILED ON
THE TITANIC.
BUT FOR REASONS WHICH ARE AS
YET UNCLEAR, AND RESEARCH IS
PROVING DIFFICULT IN THIS
FIELD -- WE'RE NOT GREAT
RECORD KEEPERS IN OUR FAMILY.
THE LUGGAGE WENT
BUT THEY DIDN'T.
SO THEY GOT TO CANADA BUT
WHEN THEY GOT THERE,
THEY WERE PROPERTY-LESS.
THEY THEN WENT TO GLEN ROCK,
SASKATCHEWAN TO DISCOVER THAT
IT WAS A KIND OF NOWHERE
IN A SEA OF NOTHINGNESS.

[laughter]

Niall continues IT WAS TUNDRA, 90 MILES
FROM MOOSEHEAD,
THE NEAREST SETTLEMENT.
AND DO YOU KNOW THE AMAZING
THING ABOUT THIS STORY, TO ME,
IS NOT THAT THEY DID THAT BUT
THAT THEY STUCK AT IT, AND
THERE ARE SOME EXTRAORDINARY
PHOTOGRAPHS WHICH I'VE
ACTUALLY REPRODUCED IN THE
BOOK THAT THEY SENT BACK TO
THE RELATIVES WHO'D STAYED
BACK IN FIFE AND IN GLASGOW
DEPICTING ALMOST AN...
IT'S AN ANNUAL UPDATE
THESE SNAPS PROVIDE.
THEY PROGRESS FROM LIVING IN
WHAT WAS A CHICKEN SHACK, AND
ALL THEY HAD TO BEGIN WITH WAS
A TINY, FLIMSY WOODEN CHICKEN
SHACK, TO A BIG TIMBERED
HOUSE THAT THEY BUILT FOR
THEMSELVES, FROM SCRATCHING A
LIVING, LITERALLY, WITH A COUPLE
OF COWS TO FARMING IN
SOMETHING MORE LIKE A
PROSPEROUS AND SUCCESSFUL WAY.
AND YOU CAN EVEN SEE ERNEST,
BIG ERNEST WHO WAS A LITTLE
MAN AT THE BEGINNING
OF THE PICTURE.
THIS KIND OF LITTLE
GUY ON THE BOAT.
BY THE TIME YOU GET TO THE
LATER 1920s, HE'S LIKE
THIS.

[laughter]

Niall continues I MEAN, THEY MUST HAVE HAD SOME
KIND OF PRIME BEEF SUPPLEMENT.
THAT'S PART OF THE STORY OF
EMPIRE
THAT I'M SURE ALL
CANADIANS IMMEDIATELY CAN
RELATE TO, AN EXTRAORDINARY
EXPLOSION OF, NOT PRIMARILY
BUT VERY LARGELY CELTIC
TALENT, AMBITION, COURAGE,
TOUGHNESS TO -- AND I LOVE
CANADA DEARLY AS A COUNTRY...
BUT SOME FAIRLY UNWELCOMING
TERRAIN, WOULD IT
BE FAIR TO SAY?

[laughter]

Niall continues AND, YOU KNOW, CANADA IS ONE
OF THE GREAT SUCCESS STORIES.
IT'S NOT WIDELY RECOGNIZED, I
SUSPECT, EVEN IN CANADA ITSELF,
BUT IF YOU LOOK AT ECONOMIC
PERFORMANCE FROM AROUND 1850
TO THE FIRST WORLD WAR, THE
CANADIAN ECONOMY WAS, IN FACT,
THE
MOST SUCCESSFUL
ECONOMY IN THE WORLD.
ITS GROWTH RATE OF PER CAPITA
GDP WAS HIGHER THAN THAT
OF THE UNITED STATES.
SO TIER TWO, THE
SETTLERS, THE AUNT AGGIES.
I WON'T EMBARRASS MY RELATIVES
PRESENT TONIGHT BY TELLING
THEIR STORY.
WE CAN DO THAT
LATER OVER DINNER.
BUT THERE'S A THIRD TIER WHICH
WE ALSO NEED TO BEAR IN MIND,
WHICH IS QUITE DIFFERENT
FROM THESE OTHER TIERS OF
IMPERIAL EXPANSION.
AND THAT IS WHAT WE WOULD NOW
CALL THE NON-GOVERNMENTAL
ORGANIZATIONS, THE NGOs.
YOU KNOW, PEOPLE TALK AS IF
NGOs WERE A NOVELTY, BUT THE
MISSIONARY SOCIETIES OF THE
VICTORIAN ERA WERE THE NGOs OF
THE 19th CENTURY.
AND THEIR CONTRIBUTION,
WHICH WAS QUITE DIFFERENT
IN ITS NATURE, THEIR
CONTRIBUTION TO THE CULTURAL
TRANSFORMATION, PARTICULARLY
OF SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA, TO THE
CREATION OF EDUCATIONAL
INSTITUTIONS AND EDUCATIONAL
OPPORTUNITIES FOR INDIGENOUS
POPULATIONS, THIS IS SOMETHING
THAT WE REALLY CANNOT
UNDERESTIMATE IN ITS IMPORTANCE.
I WOULD LOVE TO TALK AT GREAT
LENGTH ABOUT THE MISSIONARIES.
IT'S A SUBJECT
THAT FASCINATES ME.
I THINK DAVID LIVINGSTON
IS PROBABLY, OF ALL THE
CHARACTERS IN
EMPIRE,
THE
ONE I AM MOST IMPRESSED BY AND
MOST FASCINATED BY, BUT I'M
GOING TO RESIST THE TEMPTATION
BECAUSE I DON'T WANT TO GO ON
AT GREAT LENGTH, AND I WANT TO
TELL YOU JUST A LITTLE
BIT MORE ABOUT TIER FOUR.
TIER FOUR, IN MY IMPERIAL
EDIFICE, IS PROVIDED BY THE
ADMINISTRATORS, THE CIVIL
SERVANTS, CALL THEM THE
GERTRUDE BELLS FOR SHORT.
NOW, THERE ARE TWO POINTS THAT
I WANT TO MAKE BEFORE I OPEN
THIS UP TO SOME KIND
OF GENERAL DISCUSSION.
I DON'T WANT TO SAY ANY MORE
ABOUT THE SETTLERS, THOUGH I
WOULD IMAGINE THERE MAY BE
MORE QUESTIONS ABOUT THOSE
IN OUR DISCUSSION.
I'M NOT GOING TO SAY
ANY MORE ABOUT THE NGOs.
I WANT TO SAY SOMETHING ABOUT
THE ECONOMICS OF EMPIRE AND
SOMETHING ABOUT THE NATURE
OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT, CIVIL
ADMINISTRATION IN THE EMPIRE,
BECAUSE THESE ARE TWO THINGS
WHICH, WHEN YOU UNDERSTAND
THEM PROPERLY, WILL HELP YOU
SEE WHY I CONCLUDE IN
EMPIRE
THAT ON BALANCE, EVEN TAKING
INTO ACCOUNT THE SINS OF
OMISSION AND COMMISSION, THE
BRITISH EMPIRE WAS A GOOD
THING AND A BETTER THING...
THIS IS A CRUCIAL POINT...
A BETTER THING THAN THE
AVAILABLE ALTERNATIVES.
REMEMBER, NEVER COMPARE ANY
HISTORICAL PHENOMENON WITH
A UTOPIA, WITH SOMETHING
THAT WAS NOT AN OPTION.
COMPARE THE BRITISH EMPIRE
WITH THE ALTERNATIVES IF YOU
WISH TO DRAW UP YOUR
COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS IN
A MEANINGFUL WAY.
LET ME MAKE TWO POINTS
AND THEN WE CAN DISCUSS.
THE FIRST IS THAT WHEN
YOU COMPARE THE AGE OF
GLOBALIZATION TODAY AND THE
AGE OF GLOBALIZATION, SAY,
BEFORE THE FIRST WORLD WAR,
ONE OF THE MOST STRIKING
FINDINGS OF RECENT ECONOMIC
HISTORY IS THAT IN THAT AGE,
BEFORE THE FIRST WORLD WAR,
FAR MORE CAPITAL, FOREIGN
INVESTMENT FLOWED TO
POOR COUNTRIES THAN IS
THE CASE TODAY.
IF YOU JUST LOOK AT COUNTRIES
WITH INCOMES, PER CAPITA
INCOMES OF 20 PERCENT OR LESS
THAN AMERICAN INCOMES, JUST
LOOK AT THAT CATEGORY OF
REALLY POOR COUNTRIES, BACK IN
THE PERIOD BEFORE 1914,
SOMETHING LIKE BETWEEN
A FIFTH AND A QUARTER OF ALL
OVERSEAS INVESTMENT WENT
TO THOSE COUNTRIES.
TODAY, THE PROPORTION OF
INTERNATIONAL CAPITAL,
CROSS-BORDER CAPITAL THAT
FLOWS TO COMPARABLY POOR
COUNTRIES, THOSE ON INCOMES
OF 20 PERCENT OR LESS OF THE
AMERICAN AVERAGE,
IS BELOW 5 PERCENT.
WHY?
WHY ARE INVESTORS TODAY SO
MUCH MORE RELUCTANT TO PUT
MONEY IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA,
FOR EXAMPLE, THAN THEY WERE
A HUNDRED YEARS AGO?
WELL, I THINK THE ANSWER TO THAT
QUESTION LIES VERY LARGELY IN
THE NATURE OF THE CIVIL
ADMINISTRATION THAT BRITISH
IMPERIAL STRUCTURES OFFERED
THOSE DEVELOPING ECONOMIES.
IF YOU LOOK AT WHAT THE
BRITISH DID WHEN THEY RULED
A COUNTRY AND LIST THE THINGS
THAT, BY THE 1880s OR 1890s,
THE MEMBERS OF THE INDIAN
CIVIL SERVICE AND COLONIAL
SERVICE REGARDED AS DESIRABLE
OBJECTIVES, IT READS LIKE A
CHECKLIST OF THE THINGS THAT
DEVELOPMENT ECONOMISTS TODAY,
AT THE WORLD BANK OR AT THE
INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND,
WOULD RECOMMEND.
LET ME JUST LIST THEM FOR YOU:
FREE TRADE, ECONOMIC OPENNESS,
TAKE DOWN TRADE BARRIERS; THE
RULE OF LAW, AND PARTICULARLY,
IF POSSIBLE, ENGLISH-STYLE
COMMON LAW; NON-CORRUPT
ADMINISTRATION; BALANCED
BUDGETS; STABLE CURRENCY,
NO INFLATION IF POSSIBLE; AND
THEN ON THAT BASIS, FOREIGN
INVESTMENT AND PARTICULARLY
FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN
INFRASTRUCTURE AND, IF
POSSIBLE, IN EDUCATION
AND PUBLIC HEALTH.
THE MORE READING I DID IN THE
LAST FEW YEARS IN THE FIELD OF
DEVELOPMENT ECONOMICS AND THE
NEW INSTITUTIONAL ECONOMICS,
THE MORE I BEGAN TO SEE THE
ANSWER TO THE CONUNDRUM OF WHY
ECONOMIC CAPITAL FLEW SO MUCH
MORE READILY TO THE EMERGING
MARKETS OF THE LATE 19th
CENTURY THAN IT DOES TODAY
TO THE EMERGING MARKETS
OF THE EARLY 21st.
THE ANSWER WAS STARING
ME IN THE FACE.
THE NATURE OF BRITISH RULE, BY
THE SECOND HALF OF THE 19th
CENTURY AND IT CARRIED ON
INTO THE 1950s, THE NATURE OF
BRITISH RULE WAS FUNDAMENTALLY
SO LIKE THE PRESCRIPTIONS THAT
MODERN ECONOMISTS WOULD ADVISE
DEVELOPING ECONOMIES TO ADOPT
THAT IT WAS HARDLY SURPRISING
THAT THESE COLONIES ATTRACTED
SUBSTANTIAL INVESTMENT, NOR
WAS IT SURPRISING TO ME WHEN
I REFLECTED ON IT THAT, ON
BALANCE, BRITISH COLONIES
PERFORM BETTER ECONOMICALLY
UNDER BRITISH RULE, AND INDEED
FOR SOME TIME
AFTER
BRITISH
RULE, THAN THEIR REGIONAL
COUNTERPARTS GOVERNED BY
OTHER EUROPEAN POWERS OR
BY INDEPENDENT RULERS.
IT'S A FASCINATING REVELATION
WHEN YOU SUDDENLY THINK, IF
THE WORLD BANK WENT BACK A
HUNDRED YEARS, IT WOULD FIND
SO MANY OF ITS RECOMMENDATIONS
ALREADY IN PLACE IN A COUNTRY
LIKE INDIA OR ZAMBIA.
NOW, I THINK THIS WAS, IN
LARGE PART, A MATTER OF THE
ADOPTION OF LIBERALISM, AS
AN IDEOLOGY, BY BRITAIN'S
RULING ELITE IN THE
EARLY 19th CENTURY.
IT WAS ALSO UNDOUBTEDLY
CONDITIONED BY THE INFLUENCE
OF EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANITY,
WHICH CREATED AN ETHOS OF...
LET ME CALL IT MORAL RECTITUDE,
IN THE WAY IN WHICH THE CIVIL
SERVANTS OF THE RAJ AND OF
AFRICA CONDUCTED THEMSELVES,
WHICH HAS VERY FEW EQUALS
IN MODERN HISTORY.
BUT IT SEEMS TO ME QUITE CLEAR
THAT THIS COMBINATION OF
LIBERALISM AND EVANGELISM
UNDERPINNED A WONDERFUL
RECIPE, INSTITUTIONAL
FRAMEWORK TO PROMOTE NOT ONLY
ECONOMIC GROWTH BUT ALSO THE
EMERGENCE OF CIVIL SOCIETY
SO CRUCIAL FOR THE VIABILITY
OF REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT
AND, ULTIMATELY,
ULTIMATELY,
A TRANSITION TO
REPRESENTATIVE INSTITUTIONS.
WELL, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
NOBODY CAN CLAIM THAT THE
BRITISH EMPIRE
SUCCEEDED EVERYWHERE.
NOBODY CAN SAY THAT ALL THE
COUNTRIES THAT THE BRITISH
RULED MADE A SUCCESSFUL
TRANSITION VIA FREE MARKETS
AND CIVIL SOCIETY TO
REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT, BUT
IT'S CERTAINLY STILL TRUE, AS
SEYMOUR MARTIN LIPSET POINTED
OUT MORE THAN TWENTY YEARS AGO,
THAT COUNTRIES FORMERLY UNDER
SOME KIND OF BRITISH RULE ARE
MORE LIKELY TO BE DEMOCRACIES
TODAY THAN THEIR REGIONAL
COUNTERPARTS THAT WEREN'T
RULED BY BRITAIN.
LET ME CONCLUDE WITH
ONE FINAL REFLECTION.
IT'S OFTEN SAID THAT THE
PROBLEMS OF THE WORLD TODAY
ARE, IN LARGE MEASURE, A
CONSEQUENCE OF BRITISH
IMPERIAL RULE.
INDEED, THE BRITISH FOREIGN
SECRETARY, JACK STRAW, WENT ON
RECORD AT THE END OF LAST
YEAR SAYING JUST THAT.
ONE OF THE PROBLEMS WITH THIS
ARGUMENT IS THAT IT ENCOURAGES
TYRANTS LIKE ROBERT MUGABE TO
BLAME THEIR OWN MISDEEDS ON
THINGS DONE FAR IN
THEIR COUNTRY'S PAST.
THE TROUBLE ABOUT THE ARGUMENT
THAT IT'S
ALL
THE FAULT OF THE
BRITISH IS THAT IT DOESN'T
STAND UP TO ANY RIGOROUS
ECONOMIC ANALYSIS.
I LOOKED AT A SAMPLE OF 41
COUNTRIES -- AND I SHOW THE
RESULTS IN THE BOOK -- THAT HAD
BEEN UNDER BRITISH RULE UP
UNTIL THE '50s AND '60s, AND
I ASKED THE SIMPLE QUESTION,
HOW DID INDEPENDENCE
BENEFIT THESE COUNTRIES?
WHAT DID THEY GAIN
FROM INDEPENDENCE?
AND I TESTED IT BY SIMPLY
SAYING, WHAT'S THE RATIO
BETWEEN BRITISH PER CAPITA
INCOME AND FORMER COLONIAL
PER CAPITA INCOME OVER TIME?
BECAUSE IT OUGHT TO NARROW
IF INDEPENDENCE IS SO
VERY BENEFICIAL.
WHAT YOU FIND IS -- AND I'LL
TAKE JUST ONE EXAMPLE, ZAMBIA.
IN 1960, THE AVERAGE
BRIT WAS SEVEN TIMES RICHER
THAN THE AVERAGE ZAMBIAN,
AT THE END OF THE PERIOD OF
BRITISH RULE IN NORTHERN
RHODESIA, AS IT WAS THEN KNOWN.
TODAY, THE AVERAGE BRITON
IS 28 TIMES RICHER THAN THE
AVERAGE ZAMBIAN.
NOT ONLY IN RELATIVE TERMS BUT
IN ABSOLUTE TERMS, ZAMBIANS
HAVE BEEN IMPOVERISHED NOT BY
BRITISH RULE BUT, I'M AFRAID,
BY ITS ABSENCE.
THE SAME STATISTIC OR A
SIMILAR STATISTIC COULD BE
PRODUCED IN THE CASE OF
ZIMBABWE IF WE HAD ANY IDEA OF
WHAT PER CAPITA INCOMES IN
ZIMBABWE UNDER MUGABE ARE.
EVEN INDIA, WHICH IS OFTEN
HELD UP AS THE CRUCIAL EXAMPLE
OF EVIDENCE THAT BRITAIN
ENGAGED IN ECONOMIC
EXPLOITATION, HAD GREAT
DIFFICULTY SHOWING A RETURN
ON INDEPENDENCE IN THE
AFTERMATH OF 1947.
I LOOKED AT THE SAME FIGURE
FOR THE INDIAN CASE,
AND IT'S FASCINATING.
IF YOU WANT TO FIND THE PEAK
OF THE GAP BETWEEN BRITISH AND
INDIAN LIVING STANDARDS, THE
WIDEST GAP, IT COMES IN 1979.
SUGGESTING, AT LEAST TO ME,
THAT INDEPENDENCE, FOR ALL
THAT IT BROUGHT GRATIFICATION
TO THE ELITES OF FORMER
COLONIES WHO INHERITED THE
POWER THAT THE INDIAN CIVIL
SERVICE HAD WIELDED, DID NOT
IN ANY MEANINGFUL WAY BENEFIT
THE MAJORITY OF FORMER
COLONIAL SUBJECTS UNTIL IN
THE VERY, VERY RECENT TIMES,
CERTAINLY IN THE INDIAN CASE.
I FOUND THAT ONLY 14 OUT OF 41
OF MY SAMPLE HAD AT ANY POINT
MANAGED TO NARROW THE GAP
BETWEEN THEMSELVES AND THE UK.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS
LEAD US TO CONCLUDE?
WELL, IT LEADS US TO CONCLUDE
THAT INSTITUTIONS LIKE
ECONOMIC OPENNESS, SOUND MONEY
AND BALANCED BUDGETS, THE RULE
OF LAW ABOVE ALL ELSE AND A
NON-CORRUPT ADMINISTRATION CAN
BRING ECONOMIC BENEFITS EVEN
TO THE MOST UNLIKELY PLACES,
CAN ENCOURAGE THE DEVELOPMENT
OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN THOSE
PLACES AND
CAN
ULTIMATELY...
AND INDIA IS THE CLASSIC
EXAMPLE -- PAVE THE WAY FOR A
TRANSITION TO REPRESENTATIVE
GOVERNMENT IN THOSE COUNTRIES.
IN THEORY, THE UNITED STATES
OUGHT TO BE ABLE TO DO BETTER
THAN THIS.
IT IS A VASTLY RICHER, BIGGER
ECONOMY THAN THAT OF BRITAIN,
AT ANY TIME IN
BRITISH HISTORY.
TODAY, THE U.S. ACCOUNTS FOR
BETWEEN A QUARTER AND A FIFTH
OF ALL GLOBAL OUTPUT.
BRITAIN NEVER ACCOUNTED
FOR MORE THAN 10 PERCENT.
TODAY, THE UNITED STATES IS
MILITARILY SO FAR AHEAD OF THE
COMPETITION THAT YOU WOULD
HAVE TO TAKE THE MILITARY
BUDGETS OF THE NEXT 14 POWERS
AND ADD THEM TOGETHER TO COME
UP WITH ANYTHING TO MATCH
AMERICAN FIREPOWER.
BRITAIN NEVER ENJOYED THAT
KIND OF MILITARY ADVANTAGE.
THERE WAS ALWAYS ANOTHER
EMPIRE CHASING BRITAIN.
GERMANY SEEKING TO BUILD A
NAVY TO MATCH BRITAIN'S
IN THE LATER 19th AND
EARLY 20th CENTURIES.
THERE ARE NO RIVALS IN SIGHT
FOR THE UNITED STATES TODAY
IN MILITARY TERMS.
BUT LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, I
HAVE BECOME VERY DOUBTFUL
ABOUT WHETHER THIS VAST
UNSPOKEN EMPIRE THAT IS
THE UNITED STATES IS CAPABLE
OF MATCHING THE BRITISH RECORD
OF, LET ME CALL IT LIBERAL OR
BENIGN IMPERIALISM, AND THERE
ARE TWO REASONS WHY I DON'T
THINK THIS, AND I'VE ALREADY
HINTED AT THEM IN
WHAT I'VE SAID.
THE FIRST IS VERY SIMPLE.
THE TIMEFRAME
WILL BE TOO SHORT.
AS IN HAITI IN THE MID-1990s,
AS I FEAR SOON WILL BE THE
CASE IN AFGHANISTAN, PUBLIC
INTEREST WILL WANE IN IRAQ
AND WHAT HAS BEEN BEGUN
DESTRUCTIVELY WILL NOT BE
CONCLUDED PRODUCTIVELY BECAUSE
IT WOULD TAKE TOO LONG.
AFTER ALL, ISN'T THERE A
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION BEARING
DOWN ON PRESIDENT BUSH?
WILL HIS MIND NOT VERY SOON
WANDER AWAY FROM THE STREETS
OF BAGHDAD TO THE MORE
PRESSING MATTER OF THE U.S.
ECONOMY AND HIS LIKELY FATE,
GEORGE II TO GEORGE I, AT THE
HANDS OF AN AMERICAN ELECTORATE
ULTIMATELY MORE CONCERNED
ABOUT THEIR OWN INCOMES
THAN THE FUTURE OF IRAQ
AND PEACE IN
THE MIDDLE EAST?
SECONDLY, I DOUBT THIS
AMERICAN EMPIRE WILL BE AS
BENIGN AS ITS BRITISH
PREDECESSOR BECAUSE THEY DON'T
HAVE THE PEOPLE TO RUN IT.
I TOOK A LOOK AT YALE, YALE
UNIVERSITY'S STATISTICS
THE OTHER DAY.
IT'S QUITE FASCINATING.
I TRIED TO FIND OUT HOW MANY
PEOPLE STUDY MIDDLE EASTERN
LANGUAGES AND CULTURE AT YALE
UNIVERSITY AT THE MOMENT.
I DISCOVERED THAT THE NUMBER
OF PEOPLE REGISTERED FOR
COURSES IN THIS FIELD IS
LESS THAN 1 PERCENT OF THE
UNDERGRADUATE BODY.
AND I ALSO DISCOVERED
THAT THE NUMBER OF
UNDERGRADUATE MAJORS IN FILM
STUDIES IS 17 TIMES LARGER...

[laughter]

Niall continues THAN THE NUMBER OF
UNDERGRADUATE MAJORS IN
MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES.
AND THAT'S BECAUSE THE NUMBER
OF UNDERGRADUATE MAJORS IN
MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES
AT YALE IS ONE.

[laughter]

Niall continues LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
YOU CAN'T RUN AN EMPIRE,
NO MATTER HOW BRILLIANT
THAT ONE YOUNG PERSON IS...

[laughter]

Niall continues WITHOUT A SLIGHTLY LARGER
INVESTMENT IN THE CULTURE OF
THE COUNTRIES THAT
YOU PLAN TO RULE.
IN OTHER WORDS, LADIES AND
GENTLEMEN, THE LESSONS FOR
GLOBAL POWER WHICH MY BOOK'S
SUBTITLE PROMISES TO TELL YOU
ARE RATHER STRAIGHTFORWARD.
YES, AMERICA HAS THE
ECONOMIC RESOURCES.
YES, IT HAS THE MILITARY POWER
TO CREATE AN EMPIRE THE LIKE
OF WHICH THE BRITISH COULD
ONLY IMAGINE,
BUT
DOES IT HAVE
THE STAYING POWER AND
DOES IT HAVE THE TALENT?
I'M AFRAID I VERY
MUCH DOUBT IT.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

[applause]

Watch: Niall Ferguson on his book Empire